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GOP Lawmaker Questions SEC Chief on Commitment to Reg BI

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What You Need to Know

  • Gensler appeared Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee.
  • Rep. Ann Wagner questioned Gensler on his commitment to ensuring Reg BI lives up to its best-interest label.
  • Gensler has appointed staffers who oppose the rule.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said Tuesday that he remains committed to continuing to implement Regulation Best Interest as it’s “written down.”

During a question-and-answer session with Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., at an SEC oversight hearing held by the House Financial Services Committee, Wagner stated that “the benefits of Reg BI to the capital markets are abundantly clear, and there’s little doubt that investors are better off today than they were previously … You have brought on staff with a clear public record of opposing Reg BI. You can understand how that would give the investing public the impression that the SEC under your leadership is not committed to Reg BI.”

She reminded Gensler of his previous comments during his confirmation hearing that he was committed to working with SEC staff to ensure Reg BI “’lived up to its best-interest label.’”

Wagner asked Gensler: “Do you still commit to fully supporting the continued implementation of Reg BI?”

Gensler responded: “That is as true today as when I said it. This will ensure that our regulations, Regulation Best Interest, and others, live up to what is written down, on the page.”

Gensler appointed Barbara Roper as his senior advisor on Aug. 25. Roper, the former director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, has been a vocal critic of Reg BI.

During his confirmation hearing, however, Gensler also stated that the agency will “constantly evaluate” how Reg BI is serving investors and that it could be modified.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., asked Gensler to provide an update on Reg BI and whether he intends “to take further action to strengthen this rulemaking?”

Gensler responded: “I think that it’s important that this rule lives up to its potential – that ‘best interest’ really does mean best interest. So, working with our examination staff, working with our division of corporate finance, we’ve just hired an excellent person who’s a senior advisor to me directly, is to ensure that the retail public gets the best. But I’m also asking the staff to consider, how do we ensure that the brokers and the investment managers understand their duties under that rule and to ensure that […] best interest means best interest.”

Gensler added, “If the rule doesn’t work, ultimately, we are going to look to make sure that brokers ensure that the investing public truly gets best interest.”

Ron Rhoades, associate professor of finance at Western Kentucky University and director of its personal financial planning program, told ThinkAdvisor in a previous interview that Roper “is likely to examine how ‘best interest’ can be defined,” adding that he expects to see “several draft rules emerge in 2022 of a significant nature.”

Pictured: SEC Chairman Gary Gensler